Archive for artistic growth

Inspirations – Quavondo

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , on November 23, 2011 by sabrina

© Quavondo

This image was taken during a photo shoot for Grove last year.  They specialize in making bamboo cases for iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and bamboo art. When they approached me, they said that they wanted to mix fashion with their products. They didn’t want the stereotypical image of a person using the product like a lifestyle ad. They very laid back and put their full trust in me and told me that it was at my discretion. This shot was taken towards the end of the shoot. What I envisioned for this shot was the attraction between these two, the dark case and the light case. She’s got a hold of his tie and pulling him towards her. Her energy is so great that his whole body is drawn to hers. (He didn’t have a jacket, so I let him borrow the one I was wearing.)

If you’re interested in how I lit this photo, I’m finishing a book that I’m writing on photography lighting techniques and this photo is one of the photos featured in it. When I started out my career, I searched high and low for a lighting book that would teach me how to light in different situations. I would pick up a book and be all excited, only to find that the sample images inside are crappy and sometimes outdated. Knowing and understanding lighting is one thing, but to actually apply it and creating a pretty image is a whole different beast. So I’m at a point in my career where I feel I can write the book that I’ve always wanted and am excited to share it with you all. The book should be available around Christmas time. You can follow me on my blog where I’ll announce it. Or send me an email to add you to an email notification. Thanks for the support and happy shooting! ~ Quavondo


Inspirations – Budding 2 by Katarina Fagerstrom Levring

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , , , on November 2, 2011 by sabrina

© Katarina Fagerstrom Levring

1/100 sec., f/0.0, ISO 160, shutter prio, spot metering mode
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Lensbaby Composer (50 mm) with  double glass optics and macro filters

Using flowers as my main motif and creating abstractions of them has made me realize that I had totally missed out on how sensual they could be. That is before I used the camera as my first creative tool of choice. During the time I have worked this way it has shown that I seem to have a natural talent to make the most out of this special trait in their personalities. I do see each flower as a personality, most often a female and as I spend sometimes several months with each species (the Iris for example) I’ve also learned that there is so much more to discover than what first meets the eye, with each flower. A budding tulip reminded me of how vulnerable one can be in the beginning of say a relationship, with a partner, emotionally and sexually or for that matter, the vulnerability in a beginning artist, hoping to flourish in her medium. ~ Katarina Fagerstrom Levring

Photographer of the Month – Michael Orton

Posted in Photographer of the Month with tags , , , , on October 15, 2011 by sabrina

© Michael Orton

Darwin: Michael, the ‘Orton Effect’ or ‘Orton Imagery’ is now in the lexicon of photography as a creative artistic technique (whether done the old fashioned way with film or now using digital tools). I hear that soon there will be an Orton Filter in Photoshop Elements. How does it feel to have a process you refined become so popularized?

Michael: To be honest, up until a couple years ago I had no idea how widespread the use of this technique had become. The opportunity to replicate the original approach digitally, rather than with a camera and zoom lens, increased its popularity . It certainly lifts my day when I hear from someone who is using this , and who also seems to “get it”, and by get it I mean the idea behind its conception (Imitating pen and ink / watercolour technique).  As for Adobe , they contacted us and said they would like to use my name and  the effect in this falls  Photoshop Elements Version 10 . This exposure should bring our new website to an expanded audience. The website slideshow “Earth Symphony” (viewable 1080p full-screen) Is loaded with “Orton Effect” images from the beginning years to the present.

Darwin: Your new artistic direction involves motion blur with your camera. When I first heard about this I thought to myself that you would just be repeating the motion blur effects that Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant have made popular. But I was wrong! I am impressed by how you made a technique that is relatively simple and available to anyone into your own vision. To me that is like taking a C chord on the guitar and somehow making it your own. The lesson here is to take any technique and use it to express your inner vision. How did you motion studies evolve into their current form?

Michael: I have been using camera motion , along with many other photographers , since the late 80’s, so this is not new to me. There are several examples of these, used in different ways in the book “Photographing Creative Landscapes”. This last year while away I  began to “play” again, and take this basic concept of moving the camera to a place I had not been. I had used some compound movements in the past but now I really began to explore and combine them. Things started to happen . It was  as exciting to me as seeing that first “Orton Effect” years and years ago. Every day I seemed to discover another path , to the point where I was moving the camera in two or more directions and changing focal length or focus at the same time. I started to recognize potential in subject matter that a week before I would have walked right past. I had not been this pumped in years. When I saw these images on a monitor the colours and blending where simply amazing to me. I was hooked.  Technology is great , but creativity does come first . The slideshow “Freedom” on our website is completely camera motion.

Darwin: This new motion work you are doing is so distinctive that I think we may have an ‘Orton Motion Effect’ Again I want to congratulate you on turning whatever technique you try into you own unique form of expression. What is it about your personality that so clearly brings out your voice (it isn’t those special BC mushrooms is it?).

Michael: Oddly enough I have actually asked myself this question these last few years. How did I get here?  In my case I would say  a real sense of curiosity and an inquisitive  problem solving  mindset. I am constantly questioning not only what I am seeing but what my choices are in response .  This I call my inner or creative conversation and this was the basis of the ideas put forth in “Creative Landscapes”. In my world the tools of photography are far outweighed by the multitude of choices we have in using them . At this point what pushes me on is the need to create something that surprises me, to find what I haven’t seen or done in the past. Where it goes from here , we will see. I am just grateful to pick up a camera and make it happen. ( I do spend a lot of time in the rain-soaked woods , hmmm ! )

Darwin: You have been a successful stock photography and now you are entering the fine art print market. How different are the two disciplines and which do you prefer?

Michael: Stock has been a very good ride for Mary and I . It certainly changed our lives in the monetary sense. I tried to be as creative as possible  and still produce marketable “concepts” which was no easy task. There is no doubt that this does change the way one creates imagery. With the recent swing in the stock world I have been given the freedom to return to my days of “play”, and just make images for  myself. ( Is there a better reason? ) .  Where the fine art work goes from here is something I cannot predict as the world economy is so precarious . So far we have had very encouraging responses to the new work, many saying they have not seen  comparable imagery before and that these images are more visually exciting than the “effect” from years ago.. The prints done on canvas and watercolour paper in large sizes have some amazingly intricate colour blending . I cannot believe some of the hues made possible simply by blending existing colours. We will see what happens.

Michael:  By the, funny that you should mention the C chord. Not being able to obtain / license the music / soundtracks I would have liked for the slideshows (Vangelis and Kitaro didn’t answer the phone!)  I set about creating them myself last year. I used acoustic , and electric guitars, a synthesizer, and a multitrack recording studio to lay the tracks and then mixed down from these. Since the 80’s I have loved working with what I refer to as the “third image” , the one created as two slides blend in the dissolve, and when you add music to this it becomes magic for me. If I can share only one experience I would chose these slideshows. If you can find some time to watch them in a darkened quiet room , this is as close as I can come to recreating what photography feels like to me. ~ Michael

To see more of Michael”s new work and slideshows visit his website:

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

Inspirations – Independent by Matthew Connors

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , , on October 12, 2011 by sabrina

© Matthew Connors

Canon Powershot S95 (1/320s, f-5.6, ISO 100)
edited in Apple’s Aperture 3
converted to monochrome in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2

I took this image during one of those fleeting, but frequent, moments of unpredictability common with children. My daughter was sunning on the driveway and the incongruity of her lying next to rather than on her towel was, at first, merely humorous to me. Then tonal contrasts in the scene caught my eye. The black concrete, the striped towel, and her shadow cast by the late-day sun would all be accentuated in a monochromatic image. I grabbed my nearest camera, a 5-foot step ladder, took the image, put everything away, and went back to whatever I had been doing.

I believed that I had documented a nice moment, but little else and was surprised with the positive response I received when I shared it. What I thought was a personal moment that exemplified an independent, non-conformer streak in my daughter – that I was all too familiar with – actually spoke to a wider audience than I predicted.

I was reminded by the response to this image that everyday there are unexpected moments and scenes in our lives that, if caught on camera, can typify a moment or share a story. These moments are easily overlooked because they are typically routine to us, but it’s hard to predict how what is ordinary to one person will be interpreted by others. ~ Matthew Connors

Photographer of the Month – Xavier Nuez

Posted in Photographer of the Month with tags , , , , on September 19, 2011 by sabrina

© Xavier Nuez

This month I’m excited to share the work of artist and photographer Xavier Nuez. Born in Montreal and now living in Chicago, Xavier’s work has been featured in both galleries and museums and is included in numerous corporate, public and private collections.

Darwin:  I notice that many of what I consider the best photographers are also musicians or musically inclined and that these photographers have some of the most evocative visual compositions. What is it about music and photography that gel so well?

Xavier: I’ve never considered the relationship between my music and my photography, so this is a new puzzle. There is something very meditative about the two, both in the production of the art and also in the appreciation afterward. When I’m shooting or playing music I can focus so intensely that nothing else exists, while I find it hard to concentrate most any other time!

They both seem to be art forms that require both left and right brain. In both cases you are channeling emotion through a mechanical instrument, an instrument that requires years and years of practice to master. And I must say here that I’m hardly a master with my guitar. I play just well enough to enjoy myself. There has always been a different level of passion and dedication to perfection with my photography.

It requires patience to master any instrument, and while I think most people understand that to be true with a musical instrument – that it takes years and years to develop the muscle memory and dexterity – I think most people underestimate the commitment required to master the technical skills required in photography, which includes not just the camera but the lighting equipment.  So I guess another relationship is patience.

Lastly, creativity and expression are muscles that need to be exercised for you to be a good artist. Musical and visual art are just different muscles, and I do believe there are intangible benefits to my images, having more than one creative outlet.

Darwin: Besides being a fine photographer and musician, you do things like glaze and paint china and then make stunning detailed macro images of your work. I love the fact that you create art and then make additional art by photographing your first creation. What other art forms do you practice?

Xavier: Funny you should ask! For 15 years I was an avid sketch artist (mainly pencil) and occasional painter, but this passion has waned. Coincidently last week I bought a sketch pad because I miss drawing.

And for some years in my teens and twenty’s I loved writing short stories. I still enjoy writing but I haven’t written fiction in years.

I’ve always loved improv comedy and for a couple of years I studied with a group in Toronto. I wish this had been a bigger part of my life because it’s clear to me that through improv you smash down so many barriers to self expression.

Darwin: Your alleyway work is mind-blowing! What is the worst thing that has happened to you while making your forays in the dark and dangerous heart of the city? And what is the best thing that has happened to you while making alleyway photos?

Xavier: Well thank you very much! When I look at this series, it’s a little hard to believe how often I’ve put my life on the line. But the older I get the more cautious I become.

I just got back from Saint Louis where I just added a new image to the series. I spent hours during the day roaming through rundown areas, looking for something to shoot later at night. I had a long list of prospects, but I kept wondering if I should hire a cop for some of these – something I’ve never done. In the end I didn’t, but I did bring several friends with me, unlike just one the way I usually do.

I’ve had many heart-pumping moments, and I’ve come close to becoming a casualty too many times, but the worst and best story has to come from Compton, CA. First, its Compton – made famous by the dueling gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. While in the middle of a shoot, a gang – 12 guys in black hoodies – chase me and my 2 friends back to my van. We have time to throw the gear in and lock the doors but then the gang surrounds the van and tells us to get out. It’s surprising how organized they were – they were literally standing all around the van. I get the impression that if I try to leave, bullets will fly. Also, and this shows you how truly insane I can be, I’m holding out for the slim chance of actually going back to re-do the shot I was working on!!

It’s a Latino gang and I speak Spanish so I lower the window a crack and try to explain what I’m doing, emphasizing that I meant no disrespect. We have a tense conversation for several minutes, until the gang leader (the only one without a hoodie) asks me if I’m Luis, the friend of a friend. I say, “Yes! Of course I am!” He then starts waving to the gang saying, “I know this guy! He’s cool he’s cool!”

In an instant I go from being a target to being part of the family – it was just a mind-blowing turn of events. I step out of the van and half the gang hugs me. They tell me I can go back to taking pictures, and that I’m safe within certain streets – I’m beyond thrilled that I can return to my photograph. Several of the gang members including Jorge, the leader, decide to hang out with us and I set up again for the earlier photo.

Ten minutes later a cop car appears around the corner skidding to a halt. Two cops jump out with laser guided hand guns and because I’ve jumped in front of the camera to protect the shot, I find myself staring at a vibrating red dot on my chest.

A minute later, we’re all standing with our hands on the hood of the cop car. I’m waiting for the cops to relax before starting to explain what I’m doing, but Jorge jumps in and says “Do you officers know lieutenant Menendez? He’s a friend of mine.” The cops turn white and wide-eyed. They stare at each other and quickly return to their car, saying “We’re sorry we thought something was going on here. Have a nice day.” They get in the car and drive away and we never see them again. This gang has been paying off the lieutenant and you don’t mess with his revenue stream.

Jorge then comes up to me and says, “You’re not Luis, are you.” I say, no, I’m not, and we both laugh. I ended up getting 2 of my best shots that night.

Darwin: You make fine art images and you do assignment work, which do your prefer or do you like both for different reasons?

Xavier: Assignment work was 90% of my income for 20 years. I haven’t done a commercial gig in a long time – I’m not opposed to it but my art keeps me very busy. I’m thrilled that I can thrive by creating the images I’m truly passionate about. It’s no longer something I have to squeeze in at the end of the day.

I enjoyed being a commercial photographer – being paid to create photographs was a dream come true. Shooting architectural interiors for magazines and interior designers was the bulk of my work, with fashion, industrial and product filling in the rest.

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

Photographer of the Month – Michael Levin

Posted in Photographer of the Month with tags , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by sabrina

© Michael Levin

Darwin: Congratulations on a fine looking website. I love the elegant, classic and simple design which really accents you spacious and experiential photography. Did you design your website, or did you use a customized template or hire a designer?

Michael: Thank you, I worked closely with a designer and programmer on the site. I had a number of ideas that I wanted incorporated into the site and it was suggested to me that I start from ground up. It’s still a work in progress with some  interesting interactive elements being added soon, including a zoom feature to see the detail.  I think the majority of people that view my work see it on the web and I wanted the viewer to have a more personal experience. I’ve included outtakes and videos of some of my better known images and I think this helps better connect with my audience . What I’m most proud of is the newest video “Ki” that Brad Kremer shot while we were in Japan earlier this year. I think he did a fantastic job  and we’re working together on other projects now.

Darwin: You are also a talented musician. I know several other photographers who are musicians and each one of them has a simplicity and ethereal feel to their work. What is it about  being trained at music that leads photographers to be more personally expressionistic and less documentary?

Michael: “Talented” is a little to generous! I was always interested in rhythm guitar and that’s what initially attracted me to the flamenco guitar. It was the subtleties and dynamic qualities of the music that helped inform me on how to approach photography. When I first picked up the camera in 2003 I realized that capturing simple and sparse imagery would not be as easy as it looked, it would require a commitment  to evoke that same feeling that I enjoyed with music. Just as in music you practice all the time to pull off the one great performance and photography would be the same. Using long exposures also helps transform a scene from the literal into something more and this opens the image up for a more personal expression.

Darwin: Many fine art photographers seem to gravitate to shooting themes or projects yet you cover a variety of topics yet still keep the ‘look’ or ‘style’ of your work consistent. It seems that you work is more about what you feel and less about the subject. Is this ability to capture your emotions the key to developing personal style?

Michael: That’s completely what photography is about for me: being in a given space and capturing the emotion of the scene. Of course I don’t think this way when I’m out shooting, I’m just enjoying the places I visit. I think my images may have a similar look because of the effects of long exposures and I gravitate towards “clean spaces”. It seems my eye just extracts these elements from the scene and as I continue to practice I’m able to find it in more diverse locations.

Darwin: Water, sky and earth feature prominently in your work. Often these elements are simple graphical elements that are reduced to mere line and form. How do you reduce the busy, chaotic real world into such pure forms of expression?

Michael: Photography is a great way to see a country and I prefer the smaller villages and quiet moments, it’s here where I think my best images come from. Setting up a large format camera requires that you slow down and really consider the scene and I tend to have the most clarity at this point.  Having grown up on the Prairies I have an affinity for open spaces and that idea of space has always played a role in my images.  The challenge is making a singular object balance with the sky and water and it happens much less than I’d like.

Darwin: Of course because photographers are so tool-centric, we all want to know what your ‘brushes’ of choice are; what camera and medium do you use to create your work?

Michael: My camera gear has really been all over the place these last couple of years. I started out with medium format and then moved to 4×5 and 8×10. I scan everything on a Imacon 848 scanner and have the 8×10 negs drummed scanned. At the beginning of 2011 I finally went digital with the Hasselblad H4D. I do all my printing in my studio on the Epson 11880 and primarily use Epson/Hahnemuhle papers.

To see more of Michael Levin’s work, please visit his website. In October, Michael is teaching a “Art of Black and White Landscape” Master Series Workshop in Victoria, BC. There are still a few spots left!

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

© Michael Levin

2011 Tours and Workshops – Something for Everyone

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Good News, Instruction, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2011 by Darwin

Below is a listing of tours and workshops available for 2011 and into 2012. Their are only a few spots left in these events so if you want to boost your learning in photography then come join us for a great time:

Fire and Ice Photo Tour – November 10 – 13, 2011

This event is sold out but to be added to the wait list contact the Aurum Lodge or sign up for the 2012 photo tour. This is one of my favorite tours because of the short days with great light and the intersection of new ice with the fiery skies of late fall.

Just Announced! Do to popular demand we have added a second Fire and Ice as of Oct 10. Tour starts Wed. Nov. 16th 5pm to Sunday Nov. 20th 1:30 pm (four nights at Aurum Lodge!), with the option to join a day later (Nov. 17th) for those who cannot make the four nights, but wish to come for three nights only. Cost is C$ 1,359 for the four night tour or C$ 1,019 for the three night tour all in. Contact Alan at Aurum Lodge to book. Only two spots left

©Darwin Wiggett

Ice Bubbles on Abraham Lake – Winter Magic Tours 2012 – Feb. 23-26, and Feb. 29 – March 4, 2012

It seems that the Ice Bubbles out on Abraham Lake have now gotten a bit famous especially after my 2008 Travel Photographer of the Year Win which featured my Abraham Lake shots. I have taken many photographers out on the ice at Abraham Lake and now their great photos are circulating around and getting lots of views. I have been leading these tours since 2005 (see the results from back then when almost everyone was still shooting film!).

It might seem an easy proposition to just drive up to the lake in winter and get great shots on your own; and yes that is possible. But the ice bubble locations change from year to year, and most people are unaware of the extreme dangers of Abraham Lake and of the other great locations near the lake. That is where your guides (Alan who lives on the shores of Abraham Lake) and I can make sure we get you to the best spots in the best light no matter the weather. And plus you get the fantastic accommodations of the Aurum Lodge which is a nice retreat after a few hours out on the ice at -25 degrees C!

In 2012, there are two tours available; Feb 23-26, and Feb. 29 – March 4 (this latter tour is already sold out). So if you are keen to photograph Abraham Lake and other great spots this coming winter, then sign up for the Feb23-26 tour before it sells out!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett - could you find this place on your own?

Some new interview links

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Artistic Development, Controversy, Good News, Humor, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by Darwin

Sam and I were lucky enough to be invited to a cool photography podcast based out of Calgary called I am Aduro. This podcast is run by Al Del Degan of Aduro Phorography and Andrew Bolton of Zombie Darkroom. We had a great time chatting and laughing with Al and Andrew. Check it out (click on the Listen Now button on the bottom of the link page) and learn what Sam really thinks of Peter Lik’s photography and why I have little respect for most Leica photographers! As well you’ll learn what it really takes to make a living at photography and the underlying theme for the show is fine art nude photography plus there are lots of cool and interesting links.

Speaking of Fine Art Nude work, check out an interview just posted where Sam and I talk about our upcoming Gaia Nudes, Nudes in the Landscape photo workshop. Click here for more.

©Darwin Wiggett

Fabulous Film Fridays – May 20

Posted in Art of Photography, Fabulous Film Fridays, Image Processing and Software, Photography Gear, Rants, Techniques with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by Darwin

This week Samantha used her Nikon FE and did some cool macro shots of plant leaves using Ilford XP-2 400 B+W film. The results are very different from what digital would give you and the sand-like grain is lovely (and would be hard to fake in Photoshop). Like any tool, this film has its own unique signature. Sure you can try and fake it but why would you? That’s like taking a digital file and running it through a Holga software plug-in. It just ain’t the same as using a Holga. When I see a live band I want a human drummer not a drum machine. Sure the drum machine has more precise rhythm but where’s the personality? I want real; fake is just too plentiful in the world already.

Check out this week’s photos on Sam’s Blog

The Holga Hustle – May 7 at Lake Louise

Posted in Art of Photography, Good News, Instruction, Photography Gear, Prints, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2011 by Darwin

Just a reminder that we only have a few spots left for our Holga Hustle on May 7 in Lake Louise. If you’ve been following our Fabulous Film Fridays project, you’ll know that Samantha and I have been having a lot of fun playing around with our Holga cameras, Beep and Bop.  So much so that we want to share the fun and invite YOU and your Holga (or other film camera) to come along with us on May 7th to the free Holga Hustle and Print Show.

We’ll be in Lake Louise in Banff National Park with Beep and Bop, just walking around and taking pictures of whatever catches our fancy.  There are lots of paths along the river and of course visitors coming to enjoy the wonderful scenery of the Canadian Rockies, so there will be plenty to shoot. Anyone can come, just bring a film camera of any kind and you’re in! And if you do not have a film camera we’ll supply you with one and even some film! We have lots of film cameras to choose from. And don’t forget you have a chance to win the Holga below which has been donated by Jim Slobodian of the Holga Blog! The results of the Holga Hustle will also be posted here on the LLTL blog and there will be even more prizes offered once the results come in.

Win me!

We’ll be at the Holga Hustle from 2:00pm until 4:30pm on Saturday, May 7th after which we are heading over to nearby Baker Creek Bistro to launch our Print Show!  The Bistro has generously provided space in their restaurant for us to show some of our prints, including some made with our Holgas (BTW, Jim from the Holga Blog made all of our Holga prints for us!).  From 5:00pm until 7:00pm, Sam and I will be at the print show with both Holga prints and a sampling of digital files printed on aluminum from Image Wizards to demonstrate in glowing colour the beauty of the area.  There will be free snacks on hand for munching (yum!), and if you need a glass of wine after the exertion of the afternoon walk, alcoholic drinks will be available for purchase.

While you’re at Baker Creek, why not make a reservation for dinner to enjoy the excellent, locally-sourced food at the Bistro or make a weekend of it by staying at the Baker Creek Chalets.  This is where we host our SNAP! Photography Seminars workshop October 27-30, 2011 so now is your chance to check out this world-class accommodation. The folks at Baker Creek are offering anyone coming for the Holga Hustle a 15% discount on a two-night stay. Just mention our names (Darwin and Samantha) and come hang out in the Rockies that weekend!

Convinced?  Then come to The Holga Hustle and Print Show at the Bistro to see what you can do with a Holga image.  Space is limited to only 20 people! If you would like to attend the Hustle and Print Show, please email us to reserve your spot.